(All scripture quotations are in New American Standard)
Previously, I had always been able to continue on with a commitment and hope, regardless of any obstacles. This time, however, I ran out of steam for that. I needed to understand enough to go on. I needed to be able to encourage others who spoke to me privately about these same struggles in their lives. I needed to be sufficient in my understanding rather than insufficient, and I needed the change of heart or grace necessary to have confidence in this sufficiency, so that I might not just survive, but overcome.
My internal struggle was not a pity party. Yet, so painful was the accumulation of my spiritual struggles, that I did much more than merely read books, search the Scriptures, or even examine myself. I took risk in what I asked of God Himself, and I spent hours seeking Him. I lost sleep and was generally inconsolable. I boldly asked God whether I was foolish to stick with pipe dreams that God did not appear to support all that much. I reasoned that I might be wiser to concede that God was not all that interested in using me in certain ways. Pragmatically speaking, I reasoned that any gifts I had and functioned in upon occasion, were wasted on one such as myself. After all, there were many others who by their religious status and gender, were allowed a freedom I could not realistically expect. And who was I to expect any exception for me? Perhaps I was being arrogant or silly to do so. Perhaps I was struggling more against God's wisdom rather than for it. Therefore, I offered back to Him everything I ever thought He gave me. I pleaded with Him that if these things were "irrevocable," than please at least give me warning that there was to be a life-time of frustration, and not just twenty years. That way, I might accept my fate easier and not go mad with false hope.
In short, it could be said that I "wrestled" with God like Jacob did. I implored Him for a personal answer and would not let go until one was given me. I was reproved by Him at times, but my answers were by and large of unexpected encouragement and promise. Indeed, at times the presence of God enveloped me, reassuring me that my trust in Him over the years would not be a disappointment. As far as the fierce opposition that was to come shortly in my life, God promised that He was with me and would see me through. Occasionally, God also sent other believers to reaffirm this personal message to me. The sinful acts against me after that time did constitute a painful tribulation, yet ultimately I came through as promised, and enjoyed a rest in Him that I had never known.
This writing does not discuss in detail these struggles, both internal and external, nor my personal answers to them. My travail is mentioned because by seeking God and waiting on Him, I want to testify to others that I received much more than I ever expected, and much differently than I ever expected, too. Other than that it is mostly a side issue, for although it could be said that some of the revelations I am about to share could or did apply to my own personal life, I am very confident that everything in this writing was not primarily for my personal edification but rather for the Body of Christ at large. This is because the subject was not my own life which God dealt with separately and mostly prior to the onset of these revelations, but rather the broader subject of the living stones (individual believers) in the spiritual building as described in Ephesians 4:11-16:
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love." (Eph. 4:11-16)In order to prepare the reader for how this will be laid out, I must take a few moments to describe the way these revelations were given to me. Although they could be viewed as an answer to my seeking the Lord, the impressions and visions that are about to be described were entirely spontaneous and unbidden. They followed the same general theme in a sequential fashion. Most often, they were given as a persistent visual impression along with words given by the voice of the Lord or Holy Spirit at the same time. Often, while the pictures or sentences were given, there was also an "infusion" of knowledge and understanding all at once. As a matter of care, I took much time searching out the Scriptures and other facts to both confirm and "catch up" to what I had learned by the Spirit of God alone. Not all scriptural discoveries are discussed in this writing though, due to a need for reasonable brevity.
God did not promise me that these types of revelations would continue at all. Indeed, I would consider them unusual for a lifetime and I believe it would be a gross presumption on my part to count on them or expect them to continue as if I 'owned' God in any way. These things are a matter of grace because God laid hold of me, and not due to any special merit on my part. Therefore, I believe it is perfectly within His character that He made no promises that more would be coming, and that there were no bargains made with me over how I might receive more.
Twice, however, God asked me to prophesy and after I obeyed, the revelations continued. Each time, I was to prophesy in a manner which I later learned might be called, 'prophetic action'. The strength and purpose of this method of prophesying is to demonstrate a 'moving parable', so to speak, in order to communicate in a way the audience needs to hear. It would be similar to a teacher who would demonstrate something rather than just talk about it. Prophecies like this can be found in both the Old and New Testament (Ezekiel; Agabus-Acts 21:10-11). I had never prophesied in such a manner, however, and my greatest struggle was my own reluctance because I did not consider myself a very bold person. A description of these two incidences is not given because they are not useful to the purposes of this writing. I share the fact only to encourage people that it is good to obey God, for in our obedience we have have pleased God and have also 'stepped into' a position of faith that will allow us to receive more.
However, as for me, it was clear that He wanted me to wait until the obvious sequence was completed and until I was prepared to deliver them with enough understanding, before I was finally released and directed to share it in this way. He also encouraged me in various confirmations that these revelations were not outside the bounds of what other people were being shown for our times. But again, these are by and large not discussed in this writing because generally speaking, these few confirmations were only known after the fact-- sometimes well after the fact-- and never before. They were also smaller parts to the whole.
The first picture that the Holy Spirit impressed upon my mind was of stones built directly on top of one another with a layer of "mortar" between them. They were not interlocked because in a healthy spiritual building of believers, strength of unity DOES NOT come from an 'enmeshed' relationship of blurred identities without boundaries. Rather, unity comes supernaturally from the 'mortar' that holds them together. During that time, He spoke to me these words: "Intimacy is the mortar between the Living Stones."
I was shown that this is not the man-directed intimacy of forced roles or dictates, but rather this "mortar" is the love relationship between God and believer. God as our first love promotes and sustains the proper intimacy between believer and believer, because we love and accept one another as a result of knowing His love. Loving Him leads us to respond to his Heart, which leads us to express His directives to love one another. Because we love Him, we obey and become His friends, as well as enjoy the closeness of any who would also share this "mortar" of love.
After being shown that healthy, godly love is the basis for unity, I was shown a forced, man-made separation that artificially divides what God would unite. To briefly overview, this was in regards to man's discrimination according to his 'measuring rod' rather than God's. The Lord impressed upon me strongly that gender-biased or race-biased discrimination is a blight upon the Body of Christ, and is a manifestation of our refusal to value one another in equal standing. By equal standing, I mean that all of us are equally valued and important regardless of race, gender, age, or social standing.
The true basis of prejudice is fear and bitterness, and the out workings or fruit of that prejudice are: separation, segregation, and ostracization. Many times, separation occurs because people know when they are not welcome, understood, or appreciated, and they will naturally gravitate away from the source(s) of such pain. A natural polarization has already beguns because many people, when faced with either implied or outright rejection, choose some sort of distancing, whether it be emotional or physical. Nevertheless, those who have mistreated and devalued another based race, gender or chronological age, are responsible for driving their brother or sisters in Christ away, because they have refused to view people in the same way God does and have acted in some way on that refusal. They have failed to include them in good faith and may have even excluded them, because they do not accept another as Christ would.
Segregation is not just the separation of individuals, but group separation that is enforced or encouraged by a variety of methods and formulas. The prejudices or fears used as the reason for this segregation might be openly known or stated, or they might be implied by the very act of segregation. Complete ostracization is the final end of the process of separation and rejection. Anything done for reasons of prejudice against race, gender, or age, is never done in light of scripture or God's love. At their core, these are all various manifestations of hate or lack of love toward an individual or group.
The Lord showed me that prejudice causes those who are discriminated against to experience an inescapable frustration, anger, depression, or despair. One might try to say that someone who is spiritual enough might be able to be an overcomer in all of these things, and therefore not feel or suffer in this way. However, this is not a reasonable solution at all. Indeed, it is just a religious rationalization that dehumanizes the sufferer. For if a person's feelings are discounted or suppressed by some odd call to be so 'spiritual' that they are somehow superhuman, then they do not suffer as other humans do, do they? Somehow, a dignity is taken away from them: the dignity of being no less and no greater than Christ Himself, who also suffered as we do, and the dignity that they also suffer as we would, if we were in their shoes. But since the prejudiced person never experiences what he makes others know, he can tell himself that others have a way to escape the suffering he inflicts, and thus he can feel better about his sins against them.
Such an overspiritualized expectation upon the sufferer is nothing more than an excuse to keep on hurting one another and to tolerate injustice without regard to the pain caused. While it is true in Scripture that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:31-39), and that all things can work for the ultimate good (Romans 8:28), this does not negate the fact that sin is at work. It certainly does not suggest that we are excused from addressing that sin or error (Romans 5:20-6:2)! Cause has an effect, and sin causes suffering, so why should we be the happy instrument of that suffering? By walking in Spirit, none of these errors or sufferings need be found in the Body of Christ (Galatians 5:13-25).
To demonstrate visually what happens due to discrimination according to man's dictates, I saw two separate walls of the Eph. 4:11-12 building. Ideally, they were supposed to be one wall of the same building, but instead they had been separated into two walls.
For the purposes of what the Lord was showing me, each color represented a different gender, though they could of course represent other innate differences such as race or age. The blue 'stones' in this visual represented males and/or the majority race in our society, and the red 'stones' represented females and/or other societal minorities. Because each 'wall' was built only with either blue or red stones and both were completely disconnected, there was no true unity between the two. This demonstrated segregation, the most common and most 'benign' result of either stated or unstated assumptions and discriminations about the other sex or race.
Next, I saw another wall of the Eph. 4:11-12 building. Again, this wall was being built by the directive of man rather than by the directive of the Holy Spirit. This time, certain 'stones' were being 'tossed out'. These stones were called to be in certain positions by God, especially leadership positions, but they were being denied their value and place. This 'tossing aside', rejection, and blocking of their calling by others represented ostracization. This was due to the world's value placed on these people and man's estimation of them, rather than the Spirit's leading or true scriptural precedent. These stones were supposed to be able to occupy specific positions in the building yet they were being ejected in some way, according to partiality and prejudice on the part of leaders who felt the stones were 'unacceptable' (due to gender, race, economic status, or other reasons) for those particular positions.
I also saw that after their rejection by man, God 'hid' these stones in a small pile. This represented the Lord's decision to 'hide' them for a time. Later, He took them out and used them according to His will, irregardless of man's mistaken estimation of their worth or place. He could only take them out according to their willingness to come forth, though.
After showing me the error, the Lord then impressed upon me the truth of how He views His people in His Kingdom. He did this by showing me a single wall, all built of the same color. My lesson was that no matter what man does or thinks, God views His people as it states in Galatians 3:28:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all …
God is no respecter of persons. He is not a man, and so His sight is not colored by someone's status in society. He bestows gifts and callings to His people regardless of our opinions and without consulting us. He knows the differences in gender, obviously, and even utilizes those differences to His glory, but He limits no one because of it! It is our own carnality which either limits others (if we block, discourage, discount, and reject) or is self-limiting (if we become resigned and passive due to false or legalistic teachings or bitter experience).
This first section was demonstrated in prophetic action as an exhortation only, and I did not realize everything I am describing here until my obedience in the prophetic action. I was not led at the time to explain what I newly understood. Nevertheless, I knew during my brief demonstration (using legos) that this action of symbolized ostracization represented the exclusionary practices which are overtly or subtly practiced throughout our fellowships today, especially by those leaders who misuse their authority to block, discount, disregard and reject those whom God has called. According to what the Lord was telling me, this had become so widespread in the United States that it was rare for it NOT to occur, and it was even more rare for a leader who misused his authority to care about how he misused it. In fact, as if to prove that point, the audience I was led to demonstrate this to did not heed exhortation at all, in spite of the fact that other men and women were inspired in some way to give a similar warning or words, at the time.
The main subjects of discrimination in this visual demonstration were women in the Body of Christ. However, let me make clear that God showed me at the time that exclusionary practices of all kinds (not just based on gender) were widespread, depending upon the various prejudices and agendas and rationalizations of the leaders in place. These agendas had nothing to do with the purposes of the Holy Spirit or the will of God.
The crucial points to all of this were threefold. One, that the Holy Spirit should lead this process of placing the 'stones' in their place, rather than men according to their own wisdom or understanding. Two, that the ability to love, accept, and welcome were missing in those who claimed they loved God yet did not all that much. And three, that God was sorely grieved by the pain His rejected people suffered, and had a plan for their ultimate restoration into His will.
The Gender War
Responsible members of our society have strived to correct discrimination and prejudice against minorities through organizations created to 'fight the cause' on their behalf, yet they have been unable to accomplish their goals on a deep, lasting level. Another generation and another nation or society falls into discrimination and unacceptance of their fellow men and women, and often violently so, too. Whole wars are started and fought over differences and intolerance, and whole peoples oppressed. Why? Because man is sinful and unaware of God's proper esteem for every man, woman, and child. Lacking an awareness of God, man does not even know his own value, much less that of others. Lacking the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he attempts an ego boost for himself by 'illegally' (sinfully or against God's ways) oppressing others who are physically weaker or otherwise disadvantaged. Thereby feeling more powerful, which is an illusion of value.
Frustrated women in our society have crusaded for change and have often been frustrated with incomplete results. However, their efforts to correct the problem can sometimes be so tainted with the rage and bitterness of being the victims of prejudice, that they end up exacerbating the problem and unwittingly perpetuate the cycle of bitterness between men and women. Some lay hold of 'power' to control their lives by being destructive, for instance by hurting, rejecting, or dominating men or male children. Or, they may abandon their children altogether, either after they are born or before, by such acts as abortion.
In addition to this, too many men are apathetic about overt and subtle prejudice against women, and about the abuse of power. They do not help the situation but rather exasperate the situation too. For instance, they criticize women for reacting to a society of men who devalues and degrades them, rather than using their painful expressions to be activated toward change. Tragically, many women, abandoned themselves and deceived by the world, again react in kind. They have no hope and believe they have no other alternative.
It would be wiser to treat this 'gender war' as not just a 'woman's' problem, and as not occuring in a vacuum. A true appreciation of pain caused as well as the generations of men and women who do not know how to relate to one another without competition and conflict, would end up with something more productive than finding a way to blame women. Indeed, care for our mothers, sisters, wives, and children would motivate us to make many changes. Then, bitter women could would have no excuse to remain bitter, for they have a champion of men who have risen to their ability and power to do good and not evil, and they are no longer unloved, unprotected, and uncared for by so many.
This 'gender war' is present to some degree in every culture as a result of the Fall. The conflict between Adam and Eve at the Fall was begun by the trickery of the devil, and should be treated as the continued purpose of devil. Or do we imagine that the devil would want men to respect and honor women, and women to respect and honor men? Was he not jumping up and down gleefully when Adam blamed Woman and God for his mistake, instead of confessing his own decision to disobey the God he knew longer than the Woman? Did the devil not rejoice over his trickery of Eve over what God had said to the Man? In unity, trust, and communication, Adam and Eve would have defeated the devil. But they each followed their own weaknesses to the end result of a division from God and an undertow of conflict with each other.
All men and women are born in sin, and it is a fact that the errors of blame, irresponsiblity, distrust, and lust for power are easily repeated no matter what the gender, for both men and women are capable of each. To teach or imply that only women have a particular spiritual weaknesses of their long ago counterpart in the Genesis story is gender biased. This gender bias is most especially revealed in the fact that somehow, these same teachers do not teach that all men have the same spiritual weaknesses of Adam, even though they would have to do that in order to carry their theory to its natural end. Yet, this would be clearly as insulting to men and their spiritual rebirth in Christ (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:17) as it is to women. Since it would be insulting to men and they are the teachers most often, and so they would insult themselves, it is not done.
These weaknesses were Adam and Eve's own, and do not necessarily reflect the weakness of every man and woman, respectively (unless you really think we all genetically pass on specific weaknesses of character, instead of just the general tendency toward sin). Yet because the devil found such a good formula to use against us all, it is true that there would be nothing he would like better than to set this up over and over again in a variety of situations. Therefore, to blame women as some religious teachers do, is in reality falling right into the devil's hands! They judge themselves to be no better, by acting exactly as Adam did.
So should we not be weary of his devices, or do we remain defeated by them? Ideally, the results of the Fall can be reversed and redeemed by the work of Christ, because Christ is sent to triumph over the works of sin and the devil. To lift up the causes and results of the Fall as some sort of holy standard we are never able to triumph over, is denying the power of God and the hope of Christ. We all live in the world and we cannot escape each societies' own tragic version of this 'war,' but everything - EVERYTHING can be healed and redeemed by the sacrifice Jesus made of Himself on the cross. Every curse is not legalistically ours to have and to hold (Galatians 3:13), unless of course we insist upon them.
The end of the 'gender war' within the Church cannot be accomplished through hurtful separatism, legalism, religion, or foolish posturing -- pro or con (favoring one gender over the other). It cannot be solved apart from the love of Christ, or His command to love one another. Placating lip-service will not do. Condescending, disrespectful, controlling, and unloving behavior toward the opposite sex does not accomplish God's ideal. Peace and unity between the genders can be accomplished only by a turning away from the flesh and a reliance on the Holy Spirit, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).
True unity and 'equality' can only be established by knowing and abiding in the character of God, Who values everyone equally while appreciating their particular differences. Remember, Jesus showed the Father and did the Father's will (John 5:19). While doing the Father's will, Jesus challenged the mindset of the both the secular culture and the religious 'church culture' of His time. Many of his statements and actions directly challenged the racism and prejudice of the day. He did not sanction the religiously proud, or the legalism which agreed with these prejudices. Just as Jesus did, God will 'color outside the lines' of legalism and man's good ideas, as He has always done. Just as Jesus was 'radical' for the worldly and religious culture He lived in, God is 'radical' too. He will anoint whom He will as He will:
"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God." (1 Corinth. 1:26-29)
"Therefore thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.""(Isaiah 28:16. See also Isaiah 8:14, and then cross-reference to Matthew 21:42-44)Because of the future tense of the words God gave me, I explored and found that this spiritual promise or principle extends to all who identify with Jesus. In the following scriptures passage, notice the correlation between we who are 'rejected by men', and Jesus Who was also rejected:
"What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone, just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.""(Romans 9:30-33)
"Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in scripture: "Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him shall not be disappointed." This precious value, then, is for you who believe. But for those who disbelieve, "The stone which the builders rejected, this became the very corner stone," and, "A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense,"; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are "a chosen race," a royal "priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession," that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were "not a people," but now you are "the people of God"; you had "not received mercy," but now you have "received mercy.""(1 Peter 2:1-10)In reading this passage above, we think of the new believer coming into the spiritual Building of believers, having been previously devalued by the unbelievers if the world. Yet, the Holy Spirit was speaking this scripture to me as a comfort for all who had been summarily and cruelly dismissed and even rejected by members of the religious 'church culture' of today. They too are 'unbelievers' in a way, for by their actions they deny God's command to love one another. Here, God was saying that those who had been fellow partakers of Christ's sufferings of rejection, would be found "choice and precious" like in a similar way as Jesus is, though Jesus is of course is above all.
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;" (Eph. 4:11-12)Earlier, while I was building the single-colored 'healthy' Eph. 4:11-12 building during the prophetic action, I noticed a few things about it. This building was not only of one color in unity, but I was definitely shown that the leaders were placed on the bottom, and not on the top. Furthermore, I noticed that the building did not become very tall--maybe only about five to ten stones up in height, before it was to be extended out further. This meant that there were many leaders placed as a foundational base, and not just a few who were expected to support a very tall building of 'followers' they were equipping.
When the Lord returned to this subject about two months later, I began to 'see' the process go on and on--this building being built over and over, like a movie that the Lord played repeatedly for me. It was clear that I was seeing a vision of a building of believer's built by His direction and by His hand, instead of man's. I began to ask Him questions about what I was seeing. "What is the full emphasis of the leaders being at the bottom?" I asked. "Servants!" He answered, "for too long the leaders have forgotten that they are My people's servants!" "Of course!" I thought. He continued: "It is not to be from the top down. It is never to be from the TOP down. How can they support My people when they place themselves at the top? How do they claim to equip them, when they demand My people beneath them serve those at the top?!" The Lord said this as though it were an assault on His mind, when the leaders did not have an attitude of servanthood and humility. His heart was in anguish over it! It was clear to me that servant leadership was one of the very pivotal principles of His Kingdom.
Later, He again show me this same 'building' (one wall of it only) over and over again, each waking day. I saw details of the process. First I saw the Cornerstone (Jesus) the ultimate servant and yet the Head, already in place. I then saw the apostolic come in first, in the center of a wall to be created (note: this 'stone' was not next to, or closest to, Jesus. The wonderful mystery is that the Cornerstone is in His place and yet equally near everyone who would be near Him. The Cornerstone is a 'type' for the whole building ). I saw two prophets come in, one on either side of the apostolic. Then I saw a mixture of each of what was commonly known then as the 'fivefold' (Eph. 4:11) ministry added on to this bottom row of servant leaders.
As I saw them being placed next to each other, forming the base line at the bottom, the joy of the Lord was filling me--the joy of the knowledge that this was done completely by the Holy Spirit's leading. The director was the Holy Spirit, and no one else, if anyone would be led by Him. I heard the Spirit call out, "YES! I'm doing it NOW! To all who will hear and obey. Your only effort is to follow My leading-Be placed beside whomever I call you to be beside. You could be strangers when I send you to each other, but follow My leading, not what seems logical to you, not by your 'own understandings' and do not worry about the concerns of man!" After this, the pictures ceased again for a while, and then returned at a later time in more depth.
Later, God asked me to prophesy by action again-- this time the action was to wash someone's feet. The setting was at our home, since the scriptural "backdrop" for this prophecy was to be Acts 2:44-46:
"And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,"I did not know all that I was to say before I began this prophetic action. As the washing of the feet was done, I delivered a personal prophecy to the person and also said, "Jesus was the teacher; He was also the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, and the pastor. He was the full embodiment of each ministry, and yet He washed Peter's feet and spoke of servanthood and humility, and not to 'Lord it over one another'! There is to be no competition between any-they are all within Jesus! They will be able to work with one another, without strife or division, only as they remember the example of Jesus as the servant." I noticed a definite change in my own heart as I did this and said this. It was truly an act of humility, and there was an aspect of this kind of love that 'grew' inside of me, or came forward, and was instilled by Him. I was changed as much or more by this event as anyone else in the room who witnessed or experienced it.
I have known of and witnessed the tragedy of useless and destructive competition within the present day Church, as each 'equipper' or type of equipper has done more warring with each other in competition than cooperating and working with one another in mutual respect, humility, trust, and vision. This should not be, and is not the appropriate attitude of any true servant of the Lord (notice Eph. 4:1-10, which is the introduction to a list of the equippers!) I now understood more fully that the equippers who remembered to serve one another in humility as well as those whom they supported in this building of Living Stones, would be able to be beside each other and become an effective team. Those who did not, and who sought to even lord it over one other in their constant vieing for power, would not be able to be part of this genuine, workable, building of the Living Stones. This included those who 'guard' their 'position' from other kinds or types of the ministers whom they are suspicious of and feel threatened by for a variety of reasons.
If we are true leaders with the same motivations as our Lord's, then our attitudes would be evident by acts of humility and service, such as was demonstrated by Jesus's example of the washing of feet. Jesus was our 'type' or Cornerstone, and it was He Who said,
"You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:13-16 )You will notice that in this passage, Jesus expected this attitude of humility to be extended to 'one another'. Since this was His instruction to the apostles, are we to do any less? Therefore if the equippers of today cannot model the example of the Cornerstone to one another, how then should we expect their 'disciples' to be more humble and Christ-like than they?
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,"(Eph. :19-20)It was obvious that this foundational team began in the New Testament with the apostles and prophets, with a closeness between these two-- a true unity not forced upon either, with equal participation. Apostles and prophets are mentioned together eight times in the New Testament, and I don't believe this is by accident. Many Christians in today's church culture have many misperceptions and misinformation about the both, and they question their existence or what form they might take today. Because of these incorrect premises and lack of teaching, they do not often know what is the proper response to either a false worker or a true one.
The Bible does not seem to lend one to an easy, all-encompassing, 'definition' in which to thrust someone into. It does not have categories with lists of duties, complete with descriptions down to the last dot and tittle. For instance, the prophets in the Old Testament had various (and weird) ways of prophesying, but the ministry as a whole was for the same purpose and intent. In the New Testament, this same general intent is carried out, only 'nation', priesthood, and kingdom is now redefined (Romans 10:12-19; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 5:9-10), and the promise of the Holy Spirit is now given as prophesied by previous prophets (Acts 2:29-39) Instead of focusing on the main intent though, a small verse is found somewhere in the Old or New Testament, and a whole 'philosophy' is built upon it, to the exclusion of the rest of the Bible! This is outrageous, and this way of teaching is a result of personal preferences or insecurities (The attitude being: Don't confuse me with the facts).
It was wise of the Lord to leave us with as few limitations in Scripture as possible, for if we had limiting definitions of each equipper in the Word, we might easily take hold of it and rigidly apply those limitations. We might miss the forest for the trees! And yet, we are admonished to not presume extra biblical, all-encompassing duties as a 'job description' either. Each equipper, each member of the Body, should function "according to the proper working of each individual part" (Eph. 4:16), and not beyond. I believe it is wisest to take the numerous and varied examples in the whole Bible to work from and broaden our scope first, and then discount only that which is outside those large boundaries, rather than start out with a severely limited scope of our own making, and then try to coral everyone into it. Too often, 'labeling' is used as a weapon to limit someone else's function, or is used as a way to exalt or promote one over another.
We could take our examples from how the apostles treated these definitions. They hardly spent any time defining, but rather just did it. The only time they spent limiting others at all, was when it came to sinful acts and attitudes, secret sins and hypocrisy, deception and lies, pride and self-exaltation, opportunistic abuse, and departure from the pure Gospel. Even so, they realized they could not control the very fact of false workers, yet they warned and preached against them with vigor (Acts 20:25-38).
But as for the whole of Scripture, these apostles did not ignore everything that preceded Christ. Instead, they often quoted from the Old Testament in their writings and teachings, even to their Gentile churches! Therefore rather than building our concepts and 'lists' of acceptable duties on the narrow foundation of a few favorite scriptures (usually from the New Testament only), perhaps we should remember to build our foundation on The Foundation, Jesus (1 Corinth. 3:11). He was the fulfillment of all, for He was all of these 'equippers' in one. Above all, perhaps we should remember His character and clothe ourselves in His righteousness while we lay aside the deeds of the flesh.
If we look only for giftings, signs and wonders -- outward ministry -- , we will indeed miss the false prophet or apostle (Matt. 7:13-16, 21-23, and 2 Corinth. 11:12-15). Scripture makes it quite clear that the Lord is adamantly concerned with character, sin, and deception with all equippers. A focus on the 'outward' signs rather than on character and the presence of integrity in Christian walk, leads us not only to excuse and overlook the sins of the false equippers in favor of giftings or charismatic personality types, but logically will ALSO lead us to overlook and discount the 'true' worker, too.
"Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." (2 Pet 1:3-11)If anyone believes they are called in an apostolic or prophetic-type function, they must be careful to be neither ignorant or arrogant. A deceived/false apostle, teacher (pastor), or evangelist will not be able to 'work with' a true prophet: he will oppose and demand compromise from all true prophets! He will 'cut them out' of the building altogether if possible, and of any hope of real teamwork with him. Also, a deceived/false 'prophet' will likewise not be able to work with a true minister of any other type. Two people of any calling can 'work together' if both have humility. However, if one of the two falls into pride, they will not be able to work with the other in true "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
It is, of course, possible to have the outward appearance of unity by requiring or pressuring someone to make inappropriate concessions in order to satisfy the need for good appearances (2 Corinth 5:12). However, there is nothing in Scripture which supports this, nor the idea of blind loyalty at all costs. The cost usually begins at the expense of other Christians, and there is nothing noble about supporting the continuation of deception and sin.
"Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH, EACH ONE of you, WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." (Eph 4:25,30)
"He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:39-40)
I asked the Lord about the apostles and prophets, and He gave me a quick picture of "taking the land"-He used the analogy of a military operation, where the Marines land first to be the 'first to fight', supported by Special Forces who may have already arrived earlier for specialized, delicate missions such as reconnaissance. Sometimes these 'special forces' may include air raids, depending on the terrain of the land and enemy targets that need to be taken out. Those who arrive later are no less important; their task no less dangerous, and yet the succession of who 'comes in first' to establish an effective military front is clear (1 Corinth. 12:28, which is quoted later).
Many times people try to say that apostles and prophets are no longer needed, for they laid the foundation in early Christianity and then disappeared. However, this would be denying the fact that there is always new ground to break with 'old' stuff. In other words, the gospel and the truths of the gospel are needed everywhere, and this includes unreached peoples or neighborhoods. If they are forgotten or muddled in the mire of deception, they need to be taken out again and taught about and demonstrated, once again. This is exactly what the apostles and prophets did in early New Testament Christianity, and what people called by God still need to do today.
Once Jesus died and was resurrected, the Holy Spirit was sent to advocate for Him and his sacrifice on the Cross as well as His other (miraculous) works that demonstrated there was indeed a gracious and powerful God. After He was gone from the scene, He needed to be preached and people needed to be saved and the fallen restored. Truth needed to be maintained and love needed to be exhorted. This work was represented in the epistles (letters) of the apostles that we read today. Did the work ever end? I dare not say it has ended when these apostles left the scene, any more than it did when Jesus did. If it did, then we have all "attained the unity of the faith" and we are "mature" in the "fullness of Christ" already, which has not happened.
Today, we have the Holy Spirit but we also need one another. Let me turn something on its head for a moment and consider this controversial point: The apostle/prophet John went so far as to say we need no one to teach us (1 John 2:27). This means that we have stronger "evidence" by direct scripture that teachers are no longer needed once someone is saved, than we do that apostles or prophets are no longer needed. Yet do we say that? No, the teachers do not say that. They ignore this scripture and do not build this conclusion upon it. Instead, some of these teachers teach that some other ministry than what they do is no longer needed. They say equippers other than themselves no longer exist. Imagine that!
This is what happens when we find reasons to exclude ministry rather than include it. We never pick on what we ourselves have to offer to the Body of Christ, but instead pick on what another might have to offer. In tactical warfare though--that is, if you want to actually win the war-- everyone is important and each is needed.
While I expect the analogy of the "Special Forces and the Marines" presented to me by the Lord is useful enough to make the point of a practical order of succession, I would hope that it be remembered that all 'operations' are directed by the Holy Spirit and each is vital in its own right. In any case, all is under the Headship of Jesus, Who is the Cornerstone of the whole building.
Unfortunately, too many have have defined or practiced the idea of spiritual authority more in a 'pecking order' mentality than in the humility that God intended. It may be possible to take the following scriptures to construe some kind of specific, rigid succession of spiritual authority among the equipper's themselves:
"And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, then teachers . . . "(1 Cor. 12:28)Once the label is identified as to who is "on top," these people, if they believe there are still apostles for today, then curiously defining and redefine what an 'apostle' is according to their own agendas. For instance, if they wish to promote pastors, they find a way to somehow make a pastor to be the same as an apostle. Thereafter, they then find a way to suspend the idea of other equippers being involved in any leadership decisions or directions at all. That is, unless they have not already nullified the Body's need for them in the first place.
"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as . . . (Eph. 4:11)
This kind of pastor might do this by teachings or statements that foster suspicion against certain types of equippers according to his own insecurities. He might then be able to justify constant supervision and scrutiny over every move made by all other 'equippers', however they are defined for the moment. With the checks and balances of other ministries inappropriately minimized or negated, the 'leader' then carries out his deception of being the end all and for all for the Body of Christ. What he has done is discount the very people and gifts God gave in order to bring needed balance or correction to himself or his way of doing things, and he has put himself in complete control of whom he will receive reproof, rebuke or even questionings from.
I am not advocating anarchy and disrespect for the spiritually mature and the spiritual authority by which they may speak into our lives. I am saying that there is no excuse for acting as though one person or 'type' should be exalted above the others in order to exclude their ministry, and in order to opt out of any Body accountability. Sadly, many do just that. And although Christ taught against it, they are happy to receive or give titles and honor for themselves. They also reveal their real motive of self-exaltation, by refusing to give any honor or respect to others, too. While withholding and blocking respect, and while making sure others 'don't get proud', they themselves engage in spiritual pride! This is what Jesus had to say about titles and this whole pecking order attitude:
""Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them. And they tie up heavy loads, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi. But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."" (Matt. 23:1-13)
""And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called 'Benefactors.' But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.""(Luke 22:25-27)As the Lord showed me all the equippers next to each other in these pictures, I continued to be curious. He indeed wanted me to ask questions! And so I asked Him if He would speak to me more about this 'team' approach. "How would it work?" I asked. He answered, "Mutual authority, mutual submission." This was understood by myself immediately as what is truly 'side by side'. Remember, the scripture says "submit to one another" in Ephesians 5:21. How is this really possible when one is always in constant authority, and the other always in constant submission? It is not possible. If we strive for any goal, let us strive to have a 'contest of humility,' so to speak, instead of a 'competition in pride.' (Competition is related to pride---see I Corinthians, chapt. 1)
Side by side in ministry means 'taking turns' just as much as in the example Jesus gave when He washed Peter's feet, during some of His final instructions to His disciples, the apostles of the early Church:
"You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you." (John 13:13-15)You don't "wash one another's feet" unless you take turns, and you don't "submit to one another" if one is always in a position of power or directive ministry, and the other is always submitting.
Let us remember that Jesus humbled Himself in obedience to the Father to the "point of death" (Phil. 2:8) -- He did not deny being Messiah and yet shunned being glorified. Instead, He remained a servant leader who washed feet, then went to the cross, and now is "far above all rule and authority . . . head of all things in the church" We are to be "subject to one another in Christ."(Eph. 5:21), and we are to remember that it is Christ Who ALWAYS has authority over the Church as it's Head.
How do we remember this? By doing it, and we do it by not regarding ourselves as more important than others (Phil. 2:3), for if we were to consider ourselves 'more important', we would have to first compare ourselves to others and mentally find ourselves superior to them. It is a very short leap from that to either actively putting ourselves in a superior position or passively allowing the same to happen. This leap from superior self-estimation to self-promotion may be so subtle we have not noticed it. Later though, we find it awfully hard to lay down our spiritual authority over someone else in order to sincerely receive from them. We find ourselves without humility toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, whom we consider less knowledgeable, gifted, or less 'mature' than ourselves. And since we don't notice it, we find it difficult if not impossible to believe their complaints against us.
Take a look at Bob Mumford's description of how easy it is for someone to "opt out" of any real accountability in his book, Lead Us Not Into Temptation:
"Some years ago a group of elders in the Body of Christ had the painful and prolonged task of trying to deal with a minister in trouble. The man had exercised almost exclusive leadership in a work that had grown to considerable prominence and required the participation of many other ministers and teachers. Then serious flaws began to appear in his leadership, and a spirit of deception began to permeate every part of the work. But when other ministers involved insisted the burden of leadership be shared, the deceived minister became angry and rebellious.This book was a reference which the Lord immediately directed me to after revealing to me the concept of "mutual authority, mutual submission". Although Bob Mumford did not write in his book about mutual submission among Christians in the way I would propose (previously, the scriptures had never been opened up to me in such a way), he did speak of shared authority. He called this "plurality of leadership," in the quote below:
"God gave me this ministry before I knew any of you men," he declared. "And I conduct it the way God tells me!" Only when his deception flowered into open immorality and became outwardly apparent to many people did leadership finally change hands while a shocked and saddened community went through an agonizing period of spiritual readjustment." (pg. 83-84)
"For every ministry, the wisdom of God would suggest plurality of leadership and shared spiritual responsibility. The ministry based on plurality can grow properly and safely…With a broad foundation of shared responsibility and authority, where everyone acknowledges he is answerable to others, even if one or two men fall, the remaining leadership sustains the work." (pg. 85)This expanded my understanding of this kind of dynamic and the value of mutual accountability. It also comforted me to know that people before me had also heard from the Lord about shared authority. Truly, "there is nothing new under the sun." (Eccles. 1:9). Later, I further explored for myself another lack of mutual accountability, which is the error of the elder who refuses not just input from anyone who could be deemed as an 'elder' or co-elder, but those in the 'congregation' too. This is probably more common today than the scenario we read about above, and is a product of the artificial, unBiblical separation of professional ministers and unpaid "laymen" or other 'regular' people in the Body of Christ.
"...for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;" (Eph. 4:12-14)The Lord again began showing me His 'building', but this time with the full living movement of the Living Stones. I saw the baseline of servant/leaders again and then say it continue to extend with more apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teacher/pastors, being added from elsewhere.They were supporting other believers on top of them as before. At the same time, some of these other believers or 'stones' from up higher were moving down toward the base. Also, there were some from the base of 'elders' dropping 'up' for a rest! New Christians were being added to the very top, flowing like water into their (temporary) places as the base extended and added them into it too! Yes, this was a building of LIVING stones- constantly moving and changing. But in this moving picture-type vision, the height of this wall of stones was always about the same. It was temporarily 'taller' as new Christians flowed in, but always ending up a set height. This height was much lower than what we might imagine, because the ratio between 'elders' and other Christians is not as great as most propose. In other words, there is not one 'elder' or 'equipper' to every fifty or one hundred believers. This is not God's will.
To explain in more detail:
In this scripture, the full expectation of the writer is for all to have already become teachers by now. The unknown author of this book gives the reason for their failure to do so: they were partaking "only of milk", thus keeping themselves from further maturity. They were being told that if they partook of 'meat' and not just 'milk', then they would be able to "discern good and evil." They would then "no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;" (Eph. 4:14) They would have been equipped to be teachers themselves already, and may I remind the reader that teachers are part of the equippers mentioned in Eph. 4:11! By Scripture then, it is proven that all can become mature believers and can contribute as at least a teacher in some way. Of course, staying in fellowships or churches who encourage infancy by feeding milk only, will not get anyone to that point.
In answer to these questions, the Lord began to show me two other types of 'buildings':
"Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. And it came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly." And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth."As I watched this tower form, I wondered about the two stones on the bottom--They were on the bottom after all, which meant that they were servants. Wouldn't they be crushed under the weight of all those they were supporting? Furthermore, the stones further up were rigidly in place and never moved down, and the 'base' of leaders never extended as others were added from outside. The 'living stones' in this building were unified in building the structure taller by their will, strength, and efforts, but this was not GROWTH as God purposed it. Then I saw the topmost section break apart and fall off in division. After all, it was impossible for these two 'equippers' on the bottom to forever support this ever increasing building. It was also impossible for those with natural leadership skills to forever stay cogs in the wheel of someone else's ambitions, even if that ambition was to "reach into heaven". Remember, the tower of Babel was started to "make a name for ourselves" and because of that, we could say it was a project of man's own ego!
But, sadly, no one learned from the event of breaking apart. No one understood that this structure is not valid, complete, or viable. It is not God's will to build this way! Worse yet, these new leaders went on to imitate what seemed good to them in the first place, since they were disciples of the original two stones on the bottom. I saw this section of the broken tower find another place to rise up, stay firmly in their vertical position, and then continue on as the last one!
This process continued on, and soon there were a multitude of towers, each apart from one another, serving no function of true, complete, corporate Body life. This structure is partially functional, but it rises up until broken because of the natural consequence of this way of building. This 'building' could not possibly attain the ideal, for it did not expand properly nor did it have a proper foundation.
Then I was shown a second consequence of this type of building. This was the 'supernatural' consequence, instead of the 'natural'-I watched as the hand of God suddenly came to scatter the whole tower, causing each 'stone' to break apart from one another into individual pieces, to go their separate ways. I saw Him destroy this tower in order to prevent the continuation of more towers, and presumably, more vanity and misplaced ambitions.
Lord did not speak to me anymore about this 'tower of Babel'. Instead,
He taught me more about it through brothers in the Lord-that it represented
what is done out of ignorance-often in order to please God, but with little
understanding of what does actually please Him. Good works can indeed come
through a 'tower of Babel,' but these works are limited to both the type
of structure and its validity in the sight of God, which is apparently
little or none since He must eventually oppose it. It cannot substitute
for the 'true' building. It's unity is not the same as true unity in Christ,
under His Headship.
#2 -- FROM THE TOP DOWN
I had already observed over the years that U.S. churches are run more like a business. Like a business, they have their positions to fill and their qualifications to meet and their paid staff. Like a business, they have their "vision" (mission statement) which is apart and unique from other churches, and they expect those who attend will agree with that vision (or leave). Like a business, they read books or attend seminars that propose the best methods available for increasing church attendence and commitment to their cause and ways. They also learn how to expand their funds in order to support their success, which is often realized by the need for a bigger building, which require more funds. These methods are often the same methods we might see in a business operation, such as advertisement and promotional stints (or as some might call them, promotional stunts).
Some years back, I remembered sitting in a prayer meeting of a small, charismatic church. The pastor did all the praying, loudly and earnestly, hardly stopping for a breath. When he was done praying, he began to speak of 'church business'. He spoke of the most recommended public relations method of attracting new people to the church, according to the specific demographical data of the area. He must have noticed some (like myself) looking a little stunned. "This is really the way it is done all the time, " he said. "All the pastors in this area do it this way, but they are not honest about it like I am. They do not tell the people in their church how we make the decisions for the advertising, the dinners, the dramas we have, etc. But I don't mind talking about it. You all are part of the church, and you should at least know how we really do things." This is only one of the examples I have witnessed regarding the ways of the world being smoothly incorporated into church 'business'.
Keeping in mind that for centuries leaven has traditionally symbolized arrogance in the Jewish culture, a brief study of the word 'leaven' would be instructive on the issue of pride (Matt. 13:33, Matt. 16:11-12, and I Corinthians 5:6-8). Also, during the rebuke against legalism in the book of Galatians, there is the telling word, "bewitched.":
"You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:1-3)Having observed earlier in my life how very legalistic and ritualistic the occult world is, it was not a surprise to me to discover that these things were all related in the spiritual realm. As for a fellowship or church being treated like a business venture rather than a matter of faith, I believe this is related too. This is because these worldly methods are a clear departure from the leading of the Spirit and reliance on God, which is indeed the same as "beginning in the Spirit," and then attempting to perfect (complete) "by the flesh" as in the rebuke above. People are "bewitched" into substituting their spirituality with empty religious legalism which appeals to the flesh since we "earn" our righteousness or salvation. Similarly, they are tricked into utilizing worldly direction and methods to help us "work up" or maintain the blessings of God or the "right" to lead (1 Cor. 2:12). This also appeals to the flesh since we are in control of our own 'destiny' toward a predictable, manipulated, outcome.
All of this manipulation takes matters into our own hands where God would have us pray and trust Him instead (James 4:2-4 and 13-15). Therefore, it is effectively witchcraft. Or do we really think that the thousands of dollars spent on figuring out how to manipulate the consumer into buying stuff he doesn't need and really can't afford, is that much different than the manipulation found in many of our churches? And how much better is it to imply that one is not acceptable to God Himself unless he does the things wanted by the preacher and yet not really required by God, than it is to say they are not acceptable unless they have make-up, a thin body, or fast cars? Let the reader not be so easily swayed (Eph. 4:14)!
"Certainly, you have noticed the hierarchy in place in each cult operation. Certainly, you have noticed that the worst of them have a tighter, stronger hierarchy, which controls everyone underneath by fear and obedience to the hierarchy in place?" "Yes!" I said, though I had never thought of the word, "hierarchy" for a description of what happens in cults at all. When God spoke it to me though, I realized the truth that the more hierarchical, the worse it was, and the more destructive to its members. It either started out or became an enemy to God's true Kingdom (well-groomed appearances and boasts of "All the good things we do" aside). Conversely, the less hierarchy, the less destructive. This included not just groups of people in well-recognized cults, but also churches, ministries, or fellowships too, whom people might not want to think of as a cult or cult-like.
As I was taking this in, He spoke to me with firm resolve:
"Hierarchy is not of my Spirit. It is of another spirit." With these words from Him, my mind and spiritual eyes were opened for the first time in my life to something that God spoke of as a simple, foundational truth. I had become familiar with the symptoms before, but now I knew the disease itself---down to the core of it! With His words came the knowledge that all hierarchy setups, the very nature of hierarchy, is "of another spirit."
Suddenly I comprehended the CEO diagram from earlier, the 'business' of church and the World System (1 John 5:19), and the worldy, devilish, methods of authority found in cults! The World System had infiltrated the Church, and the more cult-like the church fellowship, the more there was a hierarchal system in place - the more it did not at all even resemble the Bride of Christ, or the 'Building of Living Stones'! And what is astonishing to realize, is that although a religious hierarchy appears to serve humans, it does not. In truth, a hierarchy System does not even serve the human leader 'at the top'. In reality, it actually serves this other, worldly spirit more than anything else-- something the people involved do not realize. That structure, that organization, eventually becomes like a god (idol) or entity in and of itself , and you can tell that by the fact that people are 'sacrificed' to it.
At this time, I saw another 'building'. This building was building number two in my answer to the question, "Why doesn't it (the Body of Christ) work as intended?" that I had asked above. When God showed me this building, it was clearly grotesque to the Spirit of God. It was stuctured like so: One 'stone' was at the top, two underneath him (in brick style), then two underneath each of them, and on down-like a classic 'pyramid' scam! Each stone was 'over' the other, and dominating the other! If they moved at all, it was through 'working' their way up to a position of power, if they could (Yes, just like corporate ladder, unless they hit that 'glass ceiling'!). THIS did not belong to the building of the Living Stones! Jesus was not the Head, or the cornerstone of THIS! A man (or a woman) was the head of this!
Then He spoke an old adage I had heard before:
And I understood something then. Anyone who takes on the kind of authority
structure that belongs to the arrogant and presumptuous will fall, no matter
how purely they think they started out. Indeed, no one could belong
to or construct that kind of system without being corrupt, or corrupted
by it, in some way. With the exception of naive ignorance as to what
they were actually getting involved in, no one would willingly become a
part of such a thing unless they agreed with some aspect of it themselves
(Amos 3:3: Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?)
Such an agreement with the upper echelon would include the arrogance that
is necessary for such a System. I want to stress that this System is actually
diametrically opposed to the Eph. 4:11 'building' even though it may attempt
to appear valid. It is a system from the top down rather than from the
bottom up, with a 'leader' on top (please remember that a group of leaders
can be a false front. There is always someone who holds the purse strings
and there is commonly someone who is really at the helm!)
Hierarchy can show up as any leader who uses manipulation and intimidation to control his followers either directly or indirectly. By directly, I mean a leader such as this will use prophecies, messages, or teachings to dictate people's lives regardless of their own spiritual ears and eyes, coercing them to suspend their own discernment in favor for what he presents to them. These messages or teachings will commonly misrepresent God as cruel, unforgiving, and quick to anger, and will somehow give the leader or leaders God-like, Christ-like, or Holy Spirit-like authority. They might also portray God as unconcerned with holiness, character, maturity, or righteousness, especially when it comes to the leader's own weaknesses, sins, or pride, or when it comes to the practices of his followers who might also adhere to an unrighteous lifestyle. These lifestyles are full of addictions, promiscuity, outbursts of abusive or violent behavior, and religious pride in their assumed superiority. By indirectly, I mean that this type of leader may use 'puppets' or disciples of his (the 'co-leaders' in second or third command), who will assist him in establishing and maintaining authoritarian rule. Often, his willing enablers and followers can keep people in line by peer pressure alone.
Most Christians may erroneously believe that such behavior is impossible in a 'regular' Christian church or fellowship. But this is not true. For instance, perhaps a church or group of churches thinks it is right to have a mandated requirement that all of the verbal giftings one feels led to share must be passed through the proper channels to gain prior 'approval' according only to the judgment of the one or a few. The most common rationalization for this is that these 'leaders' must protect those undiscerning 'sheep' from those big, bad wolves who might harm them or lead them astray. There is not any scriptural precedence whatsoever for monitoring and screening in such a way within a Christian fellowship, and it is wholly unnecessary since it should not be true that once someone-- anyone-- is talking or sharing, no one can respond to it or interject! What are they really so afraid of, except for loss of total control for a few moments! Or perhaps someone voices an opinion which does not completely agree with some pet doctrine or viewpoint of that person 'at the top' (such as, it not right to "Lord it over"?), and they are treated as if they just started the rebellion of Korah -- punishable in a variety of sinful, unBiblical ways by the leader and his loyal followers. These punishers do not exactly act like the Moses they would identify with in their analogy of Korah (Numbers chapt. 16), yet they persist with both their false righteousness and their false analogy. They use carnal and not spiritual means to enforce 'unity' and loyalty to the leader, which may include rudeness, lying, placating false promises, doubletalk, threats, "ambushes", and unexplained rejection and silent treatment.
Hierarchy has a habit of promoting false leaders, but making victims of the sincere, God-fearing leader. For instance, a missionary, pastor or other church staffer who is dependent on an organization or group of people for money, suddenly finds himself or herself threatened by the loss of his livelihood, and always over something small. If he or she is under congregational rule, he could be told he could be fired by his congregation, and then lied against in order to bring that firing about. His crime? Acting with any autonomy in his denomination or fellowship, while disregarding what that one (usually rich and powerful) person in the back row wants. It is amazing how such a person and their little clique of people want to control through a figure head, rather than do any of the servant work themselves. They hide in the shadows and might never want it known that they indeed are the ones requesting or demanding certain things. In truth, they are manipulators who want someone to do their bidding and who will in turn abuse and destroy behind the scenes, if possible.
Today, we have a 'managerial staff', a 'board of directors', or a 'panel of advisors' (and where do they get these ideas--from the Bible, or from the corporate business world?) Surely, wouldn't such committees be a good solution? Not if one person on that board controls all the other members, because that board or panel of advisors has no real authority and are there only for outward appearances! Remember, it is possible for elders and board members to be chosen by the person 'at the top' for their blind loyalty and not for their actual qualifications. So even what looks like a 'team' approach may not be. Conversely, a pastor may be controlled by someone on his 'team' or even someone in his family--- a wife, an associate pastor, an elder or a deacon, or board member. And what about those secret elder's meetings that decide the fate of the church? There are a thousand religious ways which hierarchy can be established and maintained. Money is often a driving force, either by threat or seduction, and secretiveness is always maintained by the disallowance of open rebuke or reproof.
Just as with the devil and Eve, there is often an 'extra-human' cleverness that accompanies these manipulators and deceivers, whose knowledge and skill seems beyond the norm. In truth, it is often demonic (James 3:15). Intimidation, however, involves the use of any fear or anxiety-invoking tactics to bring into subjection. Intimidation can be accomplished by purely mental/emotional means of verbal abuse or by raw physical overpowering. This is devilish too, since the character of the devil is to hate, overpower, and even to destroy and kill.
Religious domination is 'spiritual abuse' since the nature of it is spiritual. It is spiritual because only God should have ultimate authority and power, and only He should be feared above all others (Exo. 20:3; Luke 12:4-5). As for manipulation and deception, we might guard ourselves by remembering that only God is really the Provider of all things (Matt. 5:45; James 1:16-17). To protect ourselves from being easily fooled and trapped, we must become aware of the character of Christ as well as the tactics of the devil (Eph. 4:13-14; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Cor. 2:11). Even so, there is always something we might miss or not know, and we should not be paralyzed with self-condemnation or fear. Rather, we should reach out to others of wise-counsel and ask God for strength to escape the trap!
True spiritual authority does NOT need manipulation, intimidation, deception or abuse to maintain unity or reasonable loyalty, and does NOT need to borrow a system of hierarchy from the world in order to establish or maintain itself. The Church should look like a miracle to the world and maintain itself by the 'mortar' of love. The world, however, believes it must have a hierarchal system in order to accomplish a task most efficiently, because men are carnal and are therefore presumed to be selfish and self-serving, or even criminal. Order must be maintained to punish the wicked, or the wicked will maintain their own kind of 'order' or 'lawlessness' in order to control and subject both the innocent and weak. As for efficiency, the Egyptian Pharaoh built those impressive buildings by the use of Hebrew slaves. Efficiency is not evil, and organization is not evil, but slavery is! Therefore God Himself intervened through Moses after four hundred years of oppression (Gen. 15:13-14; Exo. 2:23-24).
To enjoin people to serve an organized, very efficient, hierarchy for some so-called spiritual purpose by making them actual slaves or virtual slaves is not a good excuse for the hierarchy or the cause. The end does not justify the means, if you have a moral base. But if you do not have that moral base, then anything goes for the sake of the "cause," noble or not. Even a noble sounding cause is often a deception and not quite so good or pure in the first place, and this is revealed by the means at which one gets there. Indeed, the ways in which accomplishments are realized could be considered the symptoms or fruit of the tree. As Jesus said, a bad tree produces bad fruit, and a good tree produces good fruit. Why do we think that darkness and mean-spiritedness is somehow related to light and goodness? This is folly.
It has probably been easy to peddle misuse of authority to unsuspecting Christians because the whole idea of what is servanthood and what proper authority really is, has become 'warped' for so many. Spouse-abuse and child abuse are rampant insomuch as a society teaches, demonstrates, or accepts misuse of authority. Women are being murdered at an alarming rate by their male partners or ex-partners, some women kill their own children, and now more and more older children kill and abuse younger ones! Abusers abuse anyone they can physically or psychologically overpower, and so no one is safe from being one or the other in a society that either promotes or tolerates it in any particular group for any reason.
According to the ignorance and rationalizations within the world and some religious people, many justify verbal or physical violence as acceptable behavior (since the end justifies the means). Physical harm and injury is often taken most seriously by law, and so it is easier to take action on behalf of the victim when there is evidence of that kind of abuse. Still, there are many kinds of abuse and the worldly or religious who will not accept frank physical abuse will accept these other kinds. The worldly and the religious also tends to consistently blame victims in various ways for all kinds of abuse, regardless of the type. People can be extremely uncompassionate toward victims, especially when it is not understood how someone can be entrapped into a web of terror. Verbal and psychological abuse is finally being acknowledged as existing, but has generally been treated by our society as not worthy of any intervention or too much concern, even though I have heard that some studies have shown that children who grew up under constant psychological abuse (regardless of the presence of other kinds of abuse), grow up the most damaged.
Before I continue speaking about the subject of abuse, let me pause to say something about the word, 'persecution'. Some American Christians are taught to discount abuse within the Church, because it is, after all, not 'persecution'. They define persecution as only frank physical abuse most often experienced in other countries and only done by those who are clearly unbelievers. This is a naïve assumption and is entirely simplistic, and furthermore is not supported by the Biblical text whatsoever. The Bible makes it clear that persecution of true Christians comes from two groups of people: the worldly and the religious. The religious of Jesus' day were so incensed by Him that they eventually accomplished his death by instigating His crucifixion, and the worldly finished the job. Similarly, the apostle Paul was heavily persecuted by the religious. A knowledge of some of the dark side of religious history will reveal some astounding acts of hostility and violence from one religious group toward another---all with the purpose of forcing them to 'repent' of religious crimes such as perceived heresy or apostasy, or to force them to 'convert' from being heathen or to wipe the "infidels" off the face of the earth. Regardless of what it is called--'persecution' or 'abuse' (I choose the word abuse because it has a broader meaning)--, it is just plain wrong to engage in these shameful acts, for any reason. Many religions do this, but how is it that those who call themselves Christians do these things?
Religion and true Christianity have always been diametrically opposed to one another. This is primarily because the grace and power of the cross offends religion and the religious. Religious Christians do not comprehend grace, for they own their own righteousness by their own religious or traditional activities. They deny the power of God, because somehow they have ways of not needing it or not really wanting it (for then, they would have to change). Since the religious do not apply God's grace to themselves, there is little grace left over for other people. Since they identify with a largely unmerciful God (in their own minds), it is easy for them to be unmerciful too. The most common, and maddening, justification for their hurtful and carnal acts is the belief that they are serving, defending, or obeying God Himself, which is a lie they tell themselves because they do not really know God at all (I John 3:10; 3:23-24; 4:7-8).
Sometimes, the religious will say they are defending elegant-sounding causes like, 'the good of the people,' 'the Word of God,' or 'the faith once delivered'. Just as the Pharisees did, they then can make themselves judges and executioners, too, all for sake of 'the cause'. To those who are judgmental, condemning, and unkind (abusive) in speech and actions toward other Christians for the sake of their lofty 'principles,' I say that their principles just aren't worth it. I say that if their 'faith' cause them to do that, it is a fine day to lay down that so called faith and walk away from it! They misrepresent God anyhow. The Spirit of the Living God is not part of their abuse. No law above love, please.
The worldly do not have the redemptive power of Christ, and so they have no staying hand against their own sin except for their conscience, and that could be seared by repeated sin. Christians who have not applied the transforming power of Christ into hidden areas of sin in their lives will also remain abusive or in sin, even after their formal salvation. They need to apply God's grace to a repentant heart---true repentance, not just empty sorrow that is without desparation, humility, or passion (2 Corinthians 7: 7-11). They need the power of God to break the stronghold of Satan that keeps that part of them in bondage (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5), so that they may leave the (land) domain of the devil which is their inheritance (Col. 1:12-13). Excusing their behavior for any reason does nothing to help this process. In fact, it hurts it.
Some seem to think persecution and abuse are good for character building, and I'm sure God will use it (2 Corinthians 12:10). I've heard some advise given to other Christians in back rooms on how to be a good martyr--how to be like Jesus. It's good to learn to respond like Jesus, instead of reacting like a heathen. It's also good to learn the humility that comes from falling short of the goal of perfection. But let me dispel the myth concerning the value of Christians suffering at the hands of other 'Christians': There has been testimony after testimony throughout history of how the suffering and martyrdom of Christians at the hands of heathen have brought people to Christ, usually because of the supernatural love of God demonstrated through the Christian to the unbeliever. But how many testimonies have you heard of someone being saved because of the mistreatment of one Christian by another, even when the suffering Christian valiantly comes through with better character? I don't know about you, but I have heard no such testimonies. And how many other stories have you heard of abuse causing all kinds of sorrows, including possibly the loss of people from the Kingdom (due either to backsliding or years in recovery)? I've heard shocking volumes of such stories.
Abuse inflicted by religious 'Christians' or carnal 'Christians' does not further the gospel or the Kingdom of God, but hobbles it. It brings shame to the gospel of Christ and wounds the Body of Christ. Furthermore, there is no nobility in martyring oneself for that which does not further the gospel and the Kingdom of God! Don't fall for it! It is just another way to be religious!
Unfortunately, people are not prepared for the fact that religious Christianity and carnal Christianity is NOT true Christianity. Because of that, they become confused, discouraged, disillusioned, downtrodden or angry--- and then condemned for being so (by the religious, of course!). It would be better to prepare them for the fact that there are false believers as well as false leaders, rather than pretending the two do not exist. The fact is, religion and carnality coexist very well and are often seen together. This is addressed beautifully by Paul in Galatians 5:14-26 through Galatians 6:10.
Presently, abuse of all kinds exist within the Church. God is not mocked, and to get a good idea of how He feels about it, one need only turn to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 34. When the sin of abuse is tolerated and excused, it becomes rampant. Like an infection, it continues to infect. Abuse can occur between Christian family members one to another, from church member to church member, church member to minister and vice versa. But other than in the pulpit of Christian book stores, the abuse that came into the Church right along side that hierarchal system is most often minimized and discounted. Furthermore, victims of abuse are treated badly twice by cruelly blaming them for it, just as the world does its victims. It has a religious twist to it because it is religious condemnation, but it is still condemnation.
Sadly, instead of tolerating the proper exposure of abuse and sin so it can be dealt with, there are many ways and methods to keep the Church at large 'in denial'. During all of this denial, the victims are forgotten, not ministered to, judged in a thousand good religious, Pharisaical ways, and told to 'get over it already,' when expressions of pain bother the sensibilities of others. It is a twisted church culture when The Church 'martyring' its own is more acceptable than acknowledging there is a problem or dealing with it! Whether the denial mechanisms are fueled by ignorance, apathy, or the need to 'cover up' for political concerns, the fruit of it is the same: more and more tragedy for many individual believers, and more and more unrepentent perpetrators.
A most especially volatile subject is the subject of abuse done by the 'leaders'. Overall, I find it all too common that more humility, responsibility and even sacrifice are expected from the 'sheep' than from the leaders. Be aware my dear brothers and sisters, that scripture can be used in order to make it appear that an overemphasis on authority is for our own good, thus justifying any action. For instance, the word 'obey' out of Heb. 13:17 ("Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you") can be emphasized so much that it can be said with the same spirit as an abusive husband who quotes Eph. 5:22, while ignoring verses 28-30.
Denial is a natural psychological defense mechanism that we humans use when we are faced with something we would rather not acknowledge. All of us go into momentary denial when we are shocked and overwhelmed by events, but hanging on to that denial is more than just a temporary defense mechanism to help us cope. In reality, it becomes the choosing of the lie rather than the truth, and so it can get ourselves and others into a whole lot of trouble. Just as denial of self-destructive behavior can eventually lead to our own physical death, denial of what is happening around us and in our midst has serious consequences, too. Spiritually, God does not excuse this type of denial or inaction from His judgment:
"If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited. Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, "See, we did not know this," Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?" (Proverbs 24:10-12)
The goal of true discipleship is not captivation of man by man, but rather the release into ministry like Jesus did in Luke 9:1-6 and Luke 10:1-22. He fully taught complete dependence on the Holy Spirit to the disciples just before their departure, and then fully expected this to occur. His was a very 'hands off' approach to their functioning in the anointing compared to what is often seen or expected now. He did not even accompany them on their ministry teams to make sure they 'did it right'! He was available to them and answered questions from the disciples later, as in Matt. 17:15-20, but even after their mistakes He saw no need to be as intrinsically involved in their ministry as what is understood to be the norm today.
Since Jesus should be our model of discipleship, it is not unreasonable to expect that the 'equippers' should also disciple as needed toward maturity. Part of becoming mature is having the autonomy to function under the Headship of Jesus and the direction of the Holy Spirit. The goal is not to make the discipled person dependent upon the discipler, nor to give the guise of autonomy and then to yank it back whenever it becomes inconvenient to the discipler's ego. Jesus said to teach them to "obey everything I (Jesus) have commanded you, " not "teach them to obey everything YOU command them to do!" (Matt. 28:20) We are not to make people OUR disciples, but disciples of CHRIST.
Authoritarianism is necessary for the establishment and maintenance of a worldy hierarchy system, but is not what Christian discipleship is all about. Unfortunately, though, many people fall for this because their view of authority is eschewed due to many factors. These may include inadequate teaching "to discern good from evil," poor past or present examples of authority in their lives, a dysfunctional family background, and a twisted understanding of the character of God the Father. If people do not yet understand the true nature of spiritual authority, then they are easy prey for either submitting to the misuse of spiritual authority, and/or exerting it themselves.
One of the psychological 'pluses' of being controlled in an authoritarian system is dependency. When one is dependent and remains dependent, they do not take the risks that would ultimately cause their growth. Instead of functioning in a healthy interdependence with all the members of the Body of Christ, they disconnect themselves from many in order to cling to a few. They rely on these few people or on that one person so much that their identity is confused or blurred with that person. They do not realize how much they are being manipulated and may not want to know. They often do not feel responsible for their actions, since after all it was the other person's decision and not theirs. They may even go so far as to easily compromise their own principles and ethics--even godly ones--because they believe it is more righteous to be subservient to their human authority figure than it is to grieve His Spirit!
This idea does not hold up to Scripture. For example, we have numerous incidences of Jesus, Who openly opposed the teachings and practices of the Pharisees in order to obey the will of the Father (such as Matt. 12:9-13). We also have the example within the early Church of an open, heated debate over the issue of the Gentiles being compelled to become circumcised. This debate was primarily between Paul and Cephas (For what may be the full story, please cross reference Acts 15:1-12 to Galatians 2: 1-14). Cephas (Peter) was an elder and established apostle in comparison to Paul prior to his apostleship. Notice that Saul, or Paul, is listed among the prophets and teachers in Acts 13:1, just before his challenge to the apostle Peter. Think about it! We have a mere 'prophet' or mere 'teacher' at the time, challenging an apostle who was discipled by Jesus Himself---and publicly at that! Certainly this brother to brother confrontation would be considered an unthinkable act in today's authoritarian rule, and an affront to all that is dear to the hierarchy, pecking-order mentality of some of today's fellowships!
Incredibly, after years of false teachings regarding true discipleship, I now hear people actually point to their place in the hierarchy system as proof that they are in obedience to God Himself, and that they are acceptable in the sight of both God and man (well, maybe man)! To say "I am under so and so,"(who is under so and so, who is under so and so) means that they can be submissive, but it is no proof of discipleship to Christ. In fact, it may only be proof that they are well-controlled, dependent, and have compromised somewhere along the way so men will speak well of them. In their heart of hearts, they may be submitting in order to eventually take their place in the hierarchy and wield authority themselves. At this rate they will one day be willing co-leaders or enablers of evil, and chances are they are already.
These are strong words I am speaking, but this is what happens when something from the world system, such as hierarchy with its authoritarianism and abuse, infiltrates and becomes acceptable in the Church. What I am saying here is not intended to negate the role and need for true spiritual authority, but to let us know there are godly limitations in those roles. Without these limitations, we become disciples of men rather than disciples of Christ, no matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise. TRUE spiritual servant/authority should lead us away from such errors, and not toward them!
If we disregard the true servant authority that would make us disciples of Christ, we are in danger of following the kind of authority that enslaves rather than releases, the kind that makes man dependent and obedient to men rather than to Christ, and the kind that gives a false representation of God's character. True authority does not need to rely on the flesh or the ways of the world, but on the Spirit. Therefore, it will not have hidden bad fruit, rotting in the darkness, but will have the fruit of the Spirit. True discipleship is a product of the Cornerstone, and so can be found first and foremost by following JESUS as our Discipler. If we have a relationship with Him, we will not be so easily deceived by others, for we will know that no one who has true spiritual authority will lead us away from Jesus as Lord nor substitute themselves in the place of Christ.
"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary."The principle of sowing and reaping can be applied on an individual level, a group level, and even a national level. Similarly, authoritarianism has wide-ranging consequences. This kind of authority effects individuals, families, churches, entire nations and even generations. It sows seeds of bitterness, disillusionment, and mistrust. While some people repeat the controlling behavior of their hapless mentors, others reject everything in order to reject the false discipleship. They react to the pain of being controlled, neglected, and unloved by becoming destructively rebellious (I don't mean following the Lord and applying the power of the Cross and producing the fruit of Holy Spirit in spite of what men think-- This NEEDS to be done!). For instance, many young people despise their church elders or parents, whether authoritarianistic or neglectful. They are turned off by them. They have a good point. If they have nothing healthy to turn to (since 'church' reeks with the same stifled, creativity-crushing atmosphere as the families they spurned, and doesn't address their real needs), they may be tempted into into full-fledged rebellion with all of its destructiveness. Thus, authoritarianism sows and then 'reaps' such things as rebellion and division within a family, church or organization.
It is proper to be concerned with rebellion against true spiritual authority, for rebellion and independence from true Christianity and God's will is the other end of the extreme of controlled dependency. A Living Stone can go off independently on its own, never able to function well in any situation because they are constantly proving that they are independent, and refusing anyone who might speak into their lives with spiritual authority. Somehow, they always find a reason not to accept such authority or accept any wisdom. Actually, these people are prime to indeed be 'at the top' of their own little pyramid later, because they find a way to reject correction and become lost in their own foolishness and king-like power (2 Peter 2:10). Saul, for instance, did not start out as appearing to despise authority, but became extremely independent of Samuel's ministry and God's correction after gaining power. His rebellion against God was revealed after the fact, and not before.
Religious authoritarianism can be wrapped up in words that sound very spiritual and even Biblical, but are designed to ensnare because these words are grossly misapplied. For instance, one might say "authority and submission" when they really mean "dominance and subservience", or "discipleship" when they really mean "dependency and perpetual spiritual infancy." Saul accused both his son Jonathan and David of being rebellious (I Sam. 20:30, I Sam. 24:11), even though they were not. In dramatic contrast, I'm sure Doeg the Edomite never received such an accusation. He was an obedient disciple of Saul's, and struck Nob the city of priests with the sword, murdering servants of God in full obedience and loyalty to Saul. (I Sam. 22:1-19). Others respectfully declined, possibly risking their lives to do so. Which choice was really the most noble?
In a religious hierarchy system, false accusations are commonly used to protect the power base, to deflect off the real issues, and/or justify an unloving action against a "threat" to "the ministry." Although it is easy to look upon those accused with suspicion, please remember scriptures such as this one:
"Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)Those with true spiritual authority do not need to defend themselves in the flesh (sinfully) to maintain their authority. Both Moses and David are good examples of this (Numbers 12:1-15; 16:1-32 and 2 Samuel chapter 15 through 16:12) . Authoritarian leaders, however, do not trust God and do not count Him as trustworthy to keep "their" ministries intact if it be His will. This may be because inwardly they know He does not approve and is opposed to the proud. Nevertheless, instead of repenting they hold onto "their" ministry as firmly as they would any idol, and not as a pure offering of worship to God. Just as Saul did, they often become paranoid, so that soon they are justifying just about anything to "protect the ministry" against the "rebellious." They revile others and then claim it is they who must be protected against "revilers" (and their charges are most often false, due to their paranoia)! Furthermore, in their teaching they may use even just the possibility of 'worst case scenarios' as a way to justify authoritarian ways and actions in the first place. So in the face of real or imagined challenge, they become more authoritarian and not less, and in so doing, guarantee the 'rebellion' of people leaving their charge, not following their (unwise) counsel or commands, or saying or doing something that would somehow oppose (even innocently oppose) their increasingly outrageous beliefs and suffocating grip on the people of God.
Authoritarianism breeds rebellion, and rebellion gives Authoritarianism an excuse to establish itself.
This is a vicious cycle indeed, and the Lord showed this to me one day in the form of a pendulum, swinging from one extreme to the other---back and forth, back and forth. This pendulum has swung in this manner in the American Church, spanning across decades and generations. As mentioned before, some people will use previous authoritarianism as a reason to be permanently suspicious and independent of all spiritual authority, and as an excuse to be rebellious against all spiritual authority. If they do, they are contributing to this 'swing' of ungodly extremes, and unwittingly lending a foothold for more authoritarianism later, if there is not stay against it.
The American Church needs to understand that both extremes are related to one another, and to stop focusing on the one while ignoring the other. It is like getting sick from the fruit, while condemning the tree branches, while ignoring the trunk, while fertilizing the roots! Jesus rebuked this kind of judgmental pride and denial when he asked, "And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:3) Blind 'search and rescues' are not going to help.
To explain this clearly, let me propose to you the following spiritual relationship: Religious Domination (in other words--- witchcraft, religious style) preaches against all (even legitimate, and yes it is legitimate to 'rebel' against the devil and sin!) rebellion and independence as a means to gain and maintain illegitimate control. At the same time, self-destructive Rebellion and Independence compels one into sinful behavior to gain an illusion of control and an illusion of freedom from fear of dominance. It is an illusion because rebellion for its own sake leads one to rebel even against God and His counsel or admonishments to avoid sin, which leads one into the arms of addictions and other entrapments or idols. Thus, both are actually similar to one another even though they may seem opposite to one another.
Perhaps this is why the equation between the two when the prophet Samuel rebuked Saul: "For rebellion is as the sin of divination..."(1 Samuel 15:23) In any case, at their root, both are motivated by fear and pride. Neither understands or trusts God and His love. One has the arrogance to presume they know better than God or those 'lesser' than they, and the other has the arrogance to assume they know better also, and should 'usurp' all authority regardless of the source or type. One does not feel safe unless they are controlling the people and things around them, and the other does not feel safe unless they are proving they are not controlled (subject) to anything or anyone, even wise counsel, (untwisted) Scripture, or God Himself.
I said above that there is a legitimate 'rebellion', and that is a rebellion against sin and evil. This kind of 'rebellion' is inspired by God Himself, and is firmly in His Word. If this is what we are guilty of, then let us not quake under the accusation of being "rebellious" for we may very well be. Rather, let us define what we really are doing, be careful that we are not sinning against God or man, and do it all the more! Real repentance, renewing of the mind, and radical change and transformation, is 'rebellion' as God intended. It includes being transformed into His image and walking in His Spirit and humility. It means seeking Him, receiving with joy His new wine, and fellowshipping however He leads and according to His Word and not according to the false teachings or set-ups of others. Just as nations undergo God-inspired revolutions to become free of dictatorship, we too can repent of our idolatry and dependence upon false leaders, and undergo a revolution too!
Being accused of 'rebellion' may not be such a bad thing, as long as we are 'rebelling' against the wrong things. Isn't this what the 'rebellious' David did, when he fled the presence of Saul (you know, the one throwing the spear at him) and fled into the arms of God? Yet God had already called Saul rebellious, and not David.
"Now David fled and escaped and came to Samuel at Ramah, and told him all that Saul had done to him. And he and Samuel went and stayed in Naioth."(1 Sam 19:18)It is worthy to note that prior to this fellowship with Samuel, David had returned to the house of Saul after Saul's first spear attack against him. After this fellowship, however, he never returned to the house of Saul again. David did not return even when Saul expressed remorse, entreating him to return with reassuring words (1 Sam. 26:21-25).
One of the teachings we may hear is the admonishment that David never reached out to 'touch the anointed' (King Saul). This is taken to mean just about any action, real or imagined, of opposition to the false leader, and that action is wrong. Godly action such as rebuke or reproof or exposure of hidden sin or simply the speaking of truth, is then disallowed . It is true that although Saul persecuted him, David did not secure his future kingdom by assassinating his predecessor and persecutor. Yet is assassination the same as respectful opposition? And is it really true that no one "touched the anointed" (King Saul) as so erroneously defined? Or did not Samuel prophesy the end of Saul's kingdom as an expression of God's opposition, and did he not have a few uncomplimentary things to say to him in the process?
Even with these prophecies, David let God remove Saul in His timing. This did not mean, however, that David joined Saul out of respect for his authority because he had once been anointed by God to be king. As already pointed out, Doeg the Edomite proved his obedience and loyalty to the king by putting to death eighty-five priests of the Lord and killing all in the city of Nob. Conversely, the servants of the king respectfully refused the kings orders at risk to their own lives. (1 Samuel 22:17-19) How far should obedience go? How far will we go to participate in what hurts members of His Body?
We might also be told it is more spiritual to "keep quiet." David did not do this, though. In 1 Sam. 19:18, there is record of David telling Samuel "all that Saul had done to him." David did not revile, but neither was he responsible for keeping Saul's secrets. We need to watch our tongues and speak nothing out of maliciousness of heart. (James 1:19-27) However, we also need not come under condemnation by a religious accusation of 'reviling' or 'gossiping' by an authoritarian leader or group, when the implication is that everyone is supposed to maintain a code of silence in order to keep things 'in the dark'--- to keep secrets! There are no shadows in the Lord! (James 1:17) Being silent to the extent of being secretive means that sin or error are never openly confronted. The instructions given in Matthew 18:15-17, Ephesians 4:25, and Ephesians 5:11 were meant to give righteous ways to deal with sins and offenses in an open and loving manner, and this 'tough love' is not the same as speaking with malintent.
In contrast to proper ways of dealing with sin and error, gossiping or reviling is not about righteous, direct confrontation, or resolutions, but about illegitimate and indirect ways to express resentment, bitterness, or hatred. When someone is willing to say something to everyone else except the person they need to say it to, and when they are not in a position of vulnerability (such as a child to an abusive parent, or a woman to her violent husband, or a member of an abusive cult), beware. This includes those who secretly appeal to a leader to oppress or silence someone they are 'offended' by. Also, beware of leaders who falsely accuse people of gossip, when the truth is that they are afraid that what they wish to suppress might be exposed. They may seem unrattled when confronted privately, because then their sin is not exposed--Their image and reputation remain intact and they can pretend that no one ever spoke to them, or they even slightly or completely misrepresent the private words. But when there are other witnesses involved as Jesus commanded us to do when there is no repentence, then they suddenly start using their 'authority' and status to silence (Amos 2:12). Or, when a testimony, teaching, or prophesy is benignly spoken that comes too close to difficult issues, there may be all manner of ill reactions. This very often includes the sin of falsely accusing.
From the New Testament, we may often hear scriptures used to remind us to honor our elders, such as this one:
"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. "(1 Tim 5:17)Athough Jesus openly rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees and warned of their false teachings, He also encouraged the people to listen to the words of Moses through them (Matt. 23:1-3). They enjoyed the place of honor they made for themselves because there will always be people willing to give it, but as for us, we are not to do what they do (Matt. 23:6-12). Therefore, the 'double honor' mentioned above in this scripture cannot mean the same type of honor as that which the Pharisees commanded, and anyone who thinks that is deceived. 'Double honor' cannot be found in empty trappings and vain and prideful exaltations, but is found in those who sincerely love, care, and appreciate without that empty flattery, and not just in appreciative word but in deed too. They do not do it because they are forced or manipulated into it, but because they know that anyone who works hard at preaching and teaching (in their giftings) with a servant's heart should be honored all the more.
According to this scripture, 'rule well' is THE CRITERIA for 'double honor'. Sadly though, it seems that ruling well is not often defined or understood in our present day religious 'church culture', any more than honor is. Instead, 'rule well' is exemplified by all manner of error from the authoritarian leader, whose trickery, guilt trips, and calls for loyalty seem to never end. This leader and their followers might lift up 1 Timothy chapt. 5:17 out of context from the rest of Scripture, suspending it in thin air without any proper understanding of "rule well" or "double honor". Oh, they may quote all the way to verse 19, but anything afterwards is left mysteriously unmentioned.
Let's look at this section of scripture in its context, starting with verse 19 instead of ending with it, because verse 19 is clearly the beginning of a brief instruction of what to do with an elder in sin:
"Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also may be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thus share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin." (1 Tim 5:19-22)It seems clear here that elders are our brothers in the Lord too, and are subject to the same Matt. 18:15-17 process in order to "win him back" as any other brother is (please notice that this scripture in the gospels is placed right after a discussion from Jesus about both 'stumbling blocks' AND a lost sheep who needs to be found). It is true that they deserve not to be accused hastily or irresponsibly, just like any other Christian. This means all are on equal ground because there is no partiality. But within a fellowship full of hierarchy, hasty accusations fly against everyone except the protected upper echelon, and 'double honor' means partiality shown to the rich and to the powerful and those with status. Just like in the world.
There will be many such select scriptures 'gone missing' in a religious system of hierarchy. Another one you will probably never hear is the apostle Paul's rather sarcastic rebuke to the church of Corinth, which he addressed to the whole congregation, saying:
"For you bear with anyone if he enslaves you, if he devours you, if he takes advantage of you, if he exalts himself, if he hits you in the face."(2 Corinth. 11:20)Paul said this as an urging of the people to reject abusive authority! Here, he fully expected the 'sheep' to have enough sense to be discerning, and take appropriate action! He was disappointed when they did not! Yet another reference to how to deal with false authority is 3 John 9-11, where the apostle John fully intends to expose Diotrephes's deeds, who "loves to be first" and who threw people out of the church. Cleary, Diotrephes had at least some of the church in his clutches, and he was very dominating. John, the prophetic apostle, promises to come and expose the truth of what Diotrephes is doing. May we all be discerning enough to not "bear with" prideful and abusive authority, and may there be mature believers (true 'equippers') to help us out when we aren't!
Daniel had been carried off during exile into Babylon and had spent his time being trained to be a 'wise man' (i.e. astrologer) in Babylon, and yet had remained pure and loyal to the Lord. I thought I had left Babylon when I became a Christian as a teenager and clung to the hope of Christ, leaving behind forever the teachings of my occultic obsessed stepfather and mother. I remembered how dismayed I was to find much of the same controlling tactics, unchallenged or entrenched, being used in many of the churches I had attended. In fact, our family had chosen to leave a series of these churches prior to this over this very thing, and I had been frustrated beyond description over their condition and over the many people being hurt by them. In short, I had been a Christian for almost 20 years now, and now He was telling me to come out of Babylon? I was extremely puzzled by His words, but He just repeated them to me, calling.
Of course, obviously what He was speaking to me was strikingly similar to Revelations 18:4, and so this caused me to turn to the book of Revelations. Previously, I had not done a great deal of speculation about the mysteries in the book of Revelations, since one of the things the Spirit impressed upon me when I was younger was that this book was written in very mysterious, revelatory language on purpose. It is human nature for people to attempt to unlock mysteries because of their curiosity and desire to 'know' the future, but I was instructed by God not to fall into a never-ending search for what God was purposely leaving largely indecipherable, and I believed symbols would became more obvious by the events of the world in the future. Perhaps this directive from the Spirit to me when I was younger was because of my occultic past, so that I would not be distracted from more important things in my Christian walk. Regardless, I had obeyed by not engaging in endless speculations or end-time theories.
Nevertheless, it is clear that it would be useful to visit Revelations and other scriptures briefly for these final Words from God, in order to see them in their context. I will quote some of the scriptures in order to save the reader from looking them up, but I am sure the following brief study may seem elementary to some:
Rev. 3:3: "Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you."cross-reference to:
"Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness;" (1 Thess. 5:1-5)contrast to:
Rev. 3:10: "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell upon the earth."
Rev. 14:7 announcement by the angel of the hour of judgement: "and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.""An overview about God's judgments as explained in Rev. 14:8-13 are: 1) judgements on Babylon, 2) judgements on those sold out to the devil, 3) martyrs
Rev. 14:15, the hour to reap:
"And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, "Put in your sickle and reap, because the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.""Cross-reference the two angels (one for the harvest that is ripe, the other for the grapes that are ripe for the wrath of God) with the parable of the wheat and tares in Matt. 13:24-30, the explanation of which is given in verses 37-43:
"And He answered and said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.""Matt. 18:7-9:
"Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell."Matt. 7:15-23:
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'"
"("Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and men see his shame.")"In Rev. 16:16-21 -the seventh bowl is poured out. Babylon is remembered.
I was also doing an extensive, personal, Bible study on the book of Hosea during this same approximate time-frame, and could not help but notice the word 'harlotry' being used there too as the Lord lamented through His prophet Hosea the many ways in which Israel has "gone after other lovers." I noticed the Lord's decision to release these "lovers" against her (Ezek. 23:22-24) as a last-ditch effort to discipline Israel, while not destroying her completely in His wrath (Hosea 11:9). This was similar to the ten kings and the beast (Rev. 16:12-16; Rev. 17:12), who were given authority for "one hour" to destroy the great harlot, Babylon. In this case the "lover" also turns on the adulterous woman (Mystery Babylon) to rend her, except this time the wrath was complete against Babylon, unlike it was for nation of Israel in the book of Hosea.
"And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not receive of her plagues;" (Revelations 18:4)We should be in the world but not of the world (John 17:14-17). The Great Harlot Babylon, however, has definitely been compromised by the world and is a friend of the world. In contrast, the true Bride of Christ, is "pure, without spot or wrinkle." (Eph. 5:27). Thus, we are told to come out of Babylon so that we may not be found participating in her sins, which would logically lead to us partaking of her plagues.
Hierarchy belongs to Satan's kingdom, who is the god of this world. Therefore, it is in this world and of the world. You may have noticed that everywhere where there is a worldly, tight hierarchy system, men are enslaved to it. This is the result of transferring something which belongs in the angelic kingdoms to the unique position of man, who is not an angel and is created with a free will. May the only 'hierarchy' we commit to be the Trinity: God as our Father (Apostle), Jesus as the Head of the Church and the One whom we follow as our Perfect Shepherd/Discipler/Pastor, and the Holy Spirit as the Anointing who is our Ultimate Teacher and Prophet of the Truth.
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things freely given to us by God" (1 Corinth. 2:12)
If you find yourself compromised to the world or in a Worldy Religious System that expects and enjoins your compromise, and as you decide to leave your personal 'Babylon', be sure not to be focused so much on other people's pride, control issues, fear, and sins that you do not allow the Spirit to minister to you in these areas too. Do not search for the "speck" in another brother's eye, while ignoring the "log" in your own (Matt. 7:2-5), or you will repeat their error and prove to be their disciple! By proper self-evaluation, you can find the stumbling block within you or the false religious beliefs you have taken on as "leaven" in your life, so that you are not so easily ensnared again. Be sure to seek His presence and face, learn the character of God, the mercy of Christ, and the leading of the Spirit, so that you are not misled by others!
Once, some years back, I was asking the Lord when I could leave a certain church that was obviously very controlling and harmful. He answered, "You can leave as soon as you learn the difference between submission and intimidation." A very powerful statement by Him, and a rebuke! You can bet I learned as quickly as possible.
The 'desert' is a place of brokenness and temptation, and the house of Saul is a place of testing. The Lord Himself may send us to these places for a season or not warn us before we enter in, but it is not His will forever. Please, choose praising God in caves with other ragtag Christians rather than the comfort of eating in comfort at the compromised table of Saul. Come out of Babylon, and do not throw your lot in with hers. There are no truly functional prophets or apostles or teachers there. If they pass through, they are not allowed to participate any more than the perpetually dependent spiritual 'infants', and they eventually must contend or leave if they want to avoid compromise.
"For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect." (Matt. 24:24)Earlier in my Christian walk, the Lord had already opened my eyes to the fact that the same types of domination practices commonly found in cults and the occult world were also being practiced in some churches or fellowships. I found it hard to understand how such practices could be found in the Body of Christ. Over the years, He had shown me by the gift of discernment some of the spirits behind these unhealthy dynamics and how they were related to spiritual pride. He showed me the necessity of repentance and humility to 'close the door' to these spirits. I also met a number of people who discerned the same things, regardless of their backgrounds. I found that the prophetic voice (regardless of the messenger, or if it was called prophesy ) was being blocked and unheeded either blatantly or behind the scenes. I discovered a great deal of pain and disillusionment in these places, and found myself in deep sorrow, moved to compassion for the His people.
I came to a point of personal crisis and despair. As someone who enjoys giving encouragement, I found I had no more encouragement to give. I was not searching for Utopia, but I was genuinely concerned about unhealthy dynamics in fellowships. I cried out to Him to renew my mind from my own biases. When I came into contact with what is presently known as 'the renewal,' I was temporarily uplifted just to be in an atmosphere which seemed like earlier times. Yet, I was notified by the Lord that there would be no permanent change amongst a people who wanted to continue in a superficial Christianity; there would be no change in leaders who were unwilling to address hard issues and who allowed themselves to maintain the same tight control they had always done, while at the same time they hypocritically claimed otherwise. And I was not "anti-renewal" at all at the time!
The revelations which the Lord gave me concerning His Living Stones served to remove the stumbling blocks from within my own heart, while at the same time instilling in me renewed hope and determination. My time with the Lord, these revelations He gave me, the many personal Bible studies, and letting the Spirit lead me to loving Christians or vise versa, served to reverse the ill effects of nonexistent or tainted teachings and experiences.
After these sets of revelations and my promise to God that I would obey Him wherever He led, even if it meant abandoning easy access to Christian fellowship provided by a "System" that either kept everyone in permanent infancy or ejected them, I was given a final unexpected revelation which is not detailed in this writing because it is not on the larger subject of "living stones". I was shown supernaturally by God His plan to work outside the System altogether, by house to house meetings and extradenominational ministries. There will be errors in excesses there too as people rise up who never got Egypt out of their heart and who still want to dominate a fellowship, or as people disintegrate into reactionary rebellion and anarchy (against scriptural holiness and righteousness itself) with their new-found freedom, yet this is where the Lord called me to. By this I follow the Lord's will and plan for my life as I hope you all will too. Not taking the easy way out may be difficult and even extremely painful, but it is well worth clinging to the Lord of Life and Grace.
© Copyright 1997 by Teri Lee Earl, re-edited and re-published by Teri Lee Earl, 2002
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